Analysts have predicted that 2011 is set to be the year of mobile. It’s not a difficult conclusion to come to, given the enormous growth of the mobile web over the last few years. But 2011 will most likely stand out from its predecessors as the year that people stop predicting the ubiquity of mobile.
By Christmas, the old saying ‚mobile will be big, do something‚ will have morphed into ‚mobile is big, what have you done?‚
Nowhere will this be truer than in South Africa. We have a mobile penetration rate of about 98%. Over 20 million South Africans own web-capable phones, which serve as their primary point of contact with the internet. For most of these users, who don’t have access to TV, DVDs or other gadgets, it’s also their only access to the entertainment world at large. Their phones deliver an interconnected choice of games, social networks and video. And as feature phones expire and smartphones replace them, mobile entertainment is fast becoming the industry’s leading growth area.
Mobile video specifically is on an exponential rise. Video traffic from mobile phones increased by 60% globally in 2010, with just one example being 100 million YouTube videos served to mobile devices every day. A recent Nielsen report showed that 20.3 million people watched mobile video in the US in the first quarter of 2010, spending an average of three and a half hours each.
As far as file size, cost and video quality are concerned, the future is bright. As mobile network operators move to 4G, entry-level speeds will be redefined and users at the top end will experience super fast internet. As data usage increases, costs will naturally come down as we’ve already seen locally in 2010. And as for video formats across multiple platforms, 3gp (which is the current de facto video format for lower-end handsets) will eventually make way for better quality video that mp4 is already delivering to higher-end devices.
Add to the mix the wildfire dispersion of video via social media platforms, and the always-on nature of mobile, and it’s clear that the concept of ‚video everywhere’ is a deepening and expanding reality.
It’s within this context that we’re refocusing Zoopy.
Zoopy repositions itself as mobile video infotainment platform
Until now, we’ve been an online platform first and a mobile service second. We’re turning this on its head and positioning Zoopy as a mobile video platform, with a mobi site, apps for the major platforms, and a website.
Until now, we’ve focused on offering our users two core, and quite diverse, services: user-generated content sharing: and Zoopy TV (with made-for-web video stories ranging from news and movie reviews to fashion and games). We’ve made the decision to focus our business on one of these areas only: an area that is unique, poised for growth and more monetisable: creating quick, light, informative and entertaining mobile video. Video that can be watched on the bus home, over lunch at work or while out with your friends.
The new Zoopy will be a first of its kind ‚ a mobile video tabloid that will feature the best of international and local infotainment. Or as our slogan promises: the world in 90 seconds (or less). We’re creating a fresh look at the news and events of the day, in an entertaining format that makes it fun to catch up with what’s going on in the world around you.
Removing UGC from Zoopy has been a difficult but healthy decision. Monetising other people’s content has been notoriously difficult for major players across the globe. As a platform, you’re always juggling content ownership and flexibility on the one side and hosting/delivery costs and revenue opportunities on the other. Because the content is owned by the user, you’re not always completely free to package, edit or structure it in ways that are revenue-friendly: or change your strategy very quickly if a better idea comes along.
You’re also swamped with spam, offensive content and enormous quantities of low-quality uploads that very quickly start to dilute the viewing experience for the visitor.
The numbers have proved the value that users place in quality content, as we’ve seen Zoopy visitors gravitate more and more towards Zoopy TV videos over user-generated content.
Rather than trying to grow Zoopy in the UGC and mobile video infotainment spaces simultaneously, with one leg in and one leg out, it makes much more sense for us to focus our energies, resources and future on the part of the business we can do so much more with, by producing and growing our own content.
Ultimately this move will benefit our users. Our past and current users will have a clear reason to come back to Zoopy. Our potential users will have a clear understanding of what Zoopy’s about. And our new users signing up will meet a Zoopy platform with a clear promise that’s delivered on with relentless focus from day one.
In the end, this is the beginning of an exciting year for us all. The year that will be remembered as mobile’s coming of age. The year that the mobile web in South Africa delivered more than 150 million mobile ad impressions each month, with faster speeds and greater web access. And the year that mobile video infotainment became a reality for anyone with a mobile phone and 90 seconds to spare.
Visit Zoopy at http://www.zoopy.com
Prepare for deepfake impact
Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper
Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt.
A deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.
New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.
In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.
Fooling the naked eye
We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?
There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.
A recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.
To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.
Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.
Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.
Heading off the very real threat
So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.
Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.
Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.
A career in data science – or your money back
The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees
The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa.
Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place. The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT.
The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.
“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.
Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.
“There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.
“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”
The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate.
“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.
EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.
In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course. In year two, this number increased to 400.
“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.
“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”
There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55.
“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.
To find out more, visit http://www.explore-datascience.net.